Working As A Cruise Ship Musician

Why work on a cruise ship? 

Its not always easy finding regular work as a musician, particularly in the down periods of the year when work is usually sparse. Musicians who want to work on cruise ships in most cases do so to travel to exciting new places, while having the security of consistent income.

Financially, as a working musician working on land, look at it this way. Your basic costs for living are:

  • Rent/mortgage and bills
  • Food
  • Petrol and costs for running a car to get to gigs

These costs alone are quite a considerable chunk of anyones salary, however, working on a ship you eliminate these expenses.


A typical day onboard you’ll either be in port, or at sea. If you’re in port, you’ll have the opportunity to take in the sights, which usually involves checking out all the postcode touristy spots, before stumbling upon a quaint coffee shop, or restaurant for a wifi pitstop! Once you’re back on the ship, it won’t be too long before you have to perform for the evening. After you’ve done your work for the day, most people like to wind down by socialising in the staff bar where you can relax and buy drinks and snacks. Crew welfare onboard also offer events like crew parties and other activities to keep you busy.

Days at sea you’ll generally have a bit more work spread out during the day in order to give the guests more of an opportunity to see you. Sea days will give you more time to explore the ship and whats going on. Go to the gym? See the shows in the theatre? Its all there!

working cruise ship musician destinations

The performing

Being a cruise ship musician isn’t about being a virtuoso on your instrument (although it would certainly be beneficial!), but fundamentally its about being an entertainer. As with any type of performance, the audience want to be able to have some kind of connection with what they are watching. This connection can be in many forms, i.e. jokes, audience participation or non verbal expression. What i’m talking about is presence.

To create presence you don’t have to be a public speaker or comedian. For musicians fronting a band for example, the simplest way to achieve this is by talking to the audience. For some this just comes naturally, but for others it might take a while to get comfortable. Some people just naturally have an aura about them which makes them captivating to watch, without even talking. Whats the point in sounding great, but not looking interesting enough for the audience to engage with? The point i’m highlighting is that in order to be a musician on a cruise ship, you need to be a good musician AND have presence. This is what makes an entertainer!